Hometown Favorite Denny Hamlin Has First Championship Within Reach Following Martinsville Victory


Hamlin takes the checkers Sunday at Martinsville for his seventh win of the season.

Heading into the 2010 season, Chesterfield, Virginia native Denny Hamlin was considered the favorite to unseat four-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. Following his seventh victory of the season Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway, Hamlin has his first championship and the end to Johnson’s reign within reach.

"Who said it was over?" Hamlin said of the Chase. "I told you it wasn't over."

After passing fellow championship contender Kevin Harvick on Lap 471 yesterday, Hamlin pulled away for his third consecutive win at Martinsville, which also completed a fall sweep of the Cup Series events in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Hamlin won the Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 11.

Hamlin’s dominant closing act on Sunday firmly establishes the No. 11 team as a title contender, as Hamlin now trails Johnson by just six points with four races remaining in The Chase.

"We're closing better this year than we did last year," Hamlin said. "This has really been a consistent six or seven weeks that we put together for ourselves. Obviously kept ourselves in the game so far."

Hamlin’s six-point deficit to Johnson is the closest margin through six Chase races ever, but anything can happen with the series heading next to Talladega, the most unpredictable race in The Chase.

Hamlin also won both of the fall Cup races in Virginia in 2009, giving him five victories in the last six races in the Commonwealth. The next chance to see the potential NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion at his hometown track is during the NASCAR Doubleheader Weekend at Richmond International Raceway April 29-30, 2011. Tickets for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The Your Name Here 400 go on-sale January 15, 2011.
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